During the fall and winter, there are plenty of reasons to visit the mountains. And with consistent high temperatures in the city, it’s easy to justify a weekend trip to them. But as most Colorado residents should know by now, the weather in the city doesn’t necessarily presume the weather in the mountains. Because of this, there are certain regulations and codes that get put into place that you might not be aware of, so it’s important to be prepared. So while you’re winterizing your car, don’t forget to check your tires.
During severe weather conditions, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has certain requirements for being on the road. One of these requirements is known as the Traction Law (Code 15). If this law is in effect, your vehicle must have snow tires, tires with a mud/snow (M+S) designation, or be equipped with four-wheel or all-wheel drive. Additionally, your tires must have at least 1/8 inch of tread on them.
How do you know if your tread is thick enough? Easy – by using a quarter, inserted into the tread upside down, with George Washington’s head sliding in first. If the tread covers his head, your tires are fine (make sure to check all around each tire, not just once). If his head stays visible, your tires will not meet the minimum requirements of the Traction Law and you could be fined anywhere between $130 to $650 or more.
If you have tires other than the type listed (for example, all-season tires), you can install chains or other gripping accessories, like an tire sock. In particularly severe winter storms, the CDOT will implement a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law (Code 16), which requires all vehicles on the road to have one of these items on their vehicle. This law is the final safety measure the CDOT issues before closing the roads altogether.
Many people think that they’ll be safe as long as they don’t cause an accident, but not so fast. If you’re pulled over for any reason, and the law enforcement officer sees that your tires don’t match the requirements, you can be busted, too. Think you’ll be fine as long as you’re not speeding or behaving in a suspect way? You can only control so much: If another car on the road hits yours, and you don’t have the right winter tires, you’ll find yourself in trouble, too…even if the accident wasn’t your fault.
If you don’t leave the city much, you’re not completely out of the woods, so to speak. While it is a rare occurrence, the Traction Law can be put into effect within the Denver metro area, too. The first time this happened was in March of 2016, so it’s always good to be prepared.
It’s not worth it to skirt the law thinking you’ll save some money; if you end up caught, your fine could end up in excess of what you would have paid to put winter tires on your vehicle, ensuring that you stay inside the law and stay safe. If you are ever unsure about anything tire-related, don’t hesitate to contact us! Our Tire Pros are always ready and able to help you out.